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How can processes in the customer service center be automated and accelerated using chatbots? In the following, we provide insights into the potential of chatbots in the banking sector based on the VRida chatbot of Westerwald Bank eG. The chatbot has been supporting the bank in the customer service center since the beginning of 2021. It can autonomously record and accept service orders placed via the bank’s website.
Westerwald Bank eG Volks- und Raiffeisenbank is a cooperative bank with a regional focus on the districts of Westerwald, Altenkirchen and Neuwied in northern Rhineland-Palatinate. The bank employs almost 500 people and reports a balance sheet total of EUR 3.5 billion.
What was the initial situation for the introduction of the chatbot?
Turbulent market conditions call for modernization of customer touch points at cooperative banks. High cost pressure and new competitors in the market place high demands on the business model. To ensure their sustainability, it is necessary to standardize and digitalize processes end-to-end as far as possible.
The customer service center is a good starting point for this change. Many of its processes are performed frequently every day and therefore have a high potential for standardization. In the course of digital transformation, the bank’s goal is to realize efficiency gains and corresponding cost reductions through automation.
“The consistent implementation of the requirements resulting from the digital transformation megatrend is of fundamental importance for our bank,” states Dr. Ralf Kölbach, board member of Westerwald Bank. In this respect, chatbots represent a great opportunity. They currently feature on the websites of numerous companies that are taking advantage of the cost-saving possibilities offered by automation. Westerwald Bank has also recognized this potential and has taken action.
Who is VRida?
Westerwald Bank started with the implementation of a chatbot to provide support for the customer service center. VRida was to be the name of the future virtual service advisor at Westerwald Bank, as was decided in the context of a staff survey, in which over 80% of employees participated.
The chatbot was developed on LoyJoy’s platform and is now prominently positioned on Westerwald Bank’s website. Since April 2021, it has provided customers with advice and support.
VRida identifies and, in some cases, solves problems beforehand, instead of initiating employee-guided contact via live chat or the telephone hotline. Existing contact options are still available, meaning that this offer is primarily intended as an extension of the touch points for the customer.
Users can navigate through predefined dialog options or express their request in natural language. Artificial intelligence helps VRida understand text and allows it to dynamically develop its knowledge from user input.
Topic: Artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics in the financial services sector
Automated processes in the customer service center thanks to the chatbot
VRida can take over some service processes autonomously from start to finish. Regarding the other processes, it takes over the steps that can be automated, such as collecting customer data and recording input, and then puts the customers through to human colleagues in the customer service center. In both cases, this significantly reduces the workload of the customer service center.
A simple example is the process for unlocking online banking functions. VRida guides the customer through the process, collects any necessary information and forwards it to the back office. The bot also helps with queries about accounts, cards, customers and many other matters. VRida serves as the initial point of contact for customer complaints regarding payment transactions and assists with limit changes. For most common customer requests, it can either provide the necessary assistance to the customer so that they can fully resolve the issue themselves, or initiate a process in the back office.
Bonus features of VRida include seamless transition to a live chat with an employee during business hours or effortless scheduling of a binding appointment for a return call if the customer has started the chat out of hours. This ensures that the customers perceive the customer journey as solution-oriented, even if AI performance falls short. VRida also provides the customer service center agents directly with the right information so that they can pick up the dialog immediately at the point where VRida left off.
A comprehensive communication concept, which included both internal and external communication, also contributed to the success of VRida’s launch. The chatbot was endowed with a “personality”, an avatar, and is promoted to both customers and employees. For example, the Westerwald Bank website now also features a short interview with VRida, giving the bot a more human-like appearance and portraying it as an employee of the bank. In fact, VRida is also happy to engage in a brief exchange on some non-banking topics.
What is the benefit of Chatbot VRida?
General benefits for banks that arise from the implementation of chatbots include differentiation from competitors, revenue increases and cost savings.
The main advantage of chatbots is their scalability, which allows them to communicate with every customer, regardless of their number, simultaneously in chat on a one-to-one basis. They can thus handle a large number of requests at peak times. This is especially helpful, for example, in the event of program changes or similar alterations or the introduction of new applications. In these cases, the customer queries arise when using digital platforms, where they are conclusively resolved by the chatbot.
The bank can ensure 24/7 accessibility and service. Inquiries are also processed faster and earlier, which meets the ever-increasing demands of bank customers for convenience and process turnaround times. In addition, VRida demonstrates Westerwald Bank’s digital competence to customers. This directly results in market differentiation. Such benefits can be measured objectively and systematically – especially on the basis of the NPS score and the free-text fields. Direct positive feedback from customers provides the greatest motivational boost in this respect.
Every customer inquiry that is fully or partially handled by VRida has a direct impact on the capacity required for manual processing, thus saving costs.
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Conclusion on the use of chatbots in banks
It is evident that the use of chatbots may also be of interest to other banks besides Westerwald Bank. In the near future, other use cases, such as product consulting, customer surveys, and also internal applications, such as IT support, employee surveys and information, will offer major opportunities. Banks should identify the use cases that make sense for them individually and determine the next steps in their strategic planning.
Outlook: Digital assistants in the financial sector
The potential of chatbots in the banking sector remains very high. A deeper integration of the chatbot into the core banking system via interface could, for example, unlock numerous additional functionalities. This would allow banks to fully automate even more support requests and enable customers to conduct their banking transactions in a simple and intuitive way by using natural language.
Customer interactions of this kind have so far been more of a showcase for banks than an established practice. However, this is likely to change in the near future. Market research firm Gartner predicts “that by 2022, 70% of all customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as machine learning applications, chatbots, and mobile messaging.” Similarly, the banks that took part in the Digital Pulse Check 4.0 survey conducted by zeb indicated that they plan to invest heavily in process optimization through new technologies (such as artificial intelligence) over the next two years.
Read more about digital assistants
Our digital assistants series will be expanded regularly. An overview of the topic and all articles in the series can be found here: